Advice NI warns that upward trend in debt is set to continue as average debt across Council areas soars

A report published by Advice NI, the independent advice network, highlights that over 1,640 clients with almost £28.7 million of debt and 5,090 debts sought face to face debt advice from the Debt Action NI service during a one year period from November 2009 to October 2010.

Of the total amount of debt, the highest debt dealt with was mortgage debt at over £9 million (over 32% of the overall total debt) which includes capital of nearly £7 million and arrears of over £2 million. This was followed by credit card debt which amounted to almost £6 million.

The average debt per client across 13 Council areas amounted to £17,468 with 7 Council areas exceeding this: Omagh, Limavady, Ballymena, Srabane, Craigavon, Lisburn and East Belfast.
Demand for debt advice was highest in North Belfast, followed by Magherafelt, East Belfast, Limavady, West Belfast and Strabane highlighting the need for debt advice in areas of deprivation, particularly to those on low income or benefits who have limited access to credit.
Speaking at the report launch in Stormont, Arlene Foster Said
"Many people across Northern Ireland have experienced the impact of the economic crisis and debt has become one of the most serious and damaging problems affecting our communities. Today's report highlights the need for this free, impartial, debt advice to help those in greatest need."
"Although there is a wide range of budgetary pressures facing the Executive, I am determined to protect all of the Departmental funding towards debt advice provision going forward. I remain firmly committed to ensuring the continuation of this vital service which helps some of the most vulnerable members of our society."
Bob Stronge, Chief Executive Officer at Advice NI explained,
"People in Northern Ireland continue to feel the effects of the recession. The current economic climate, cuts in welfare and public spending, coupled with anticipated increases in interest rates later this year is likely to cause financial pressure for greater numbers of people."
Individuals struggling with debt should act quickly and the Debt Action NI service which is free and confidential can help change people's lives by offering them better ways to manage their finances and debts.
From November 2009 to October 2010 Debt Action NI has been successful in gaining 1,193 successful outcomes for clients which range from write offs, to debt management plans, bankruptcy, individual voluntary arrangements and full and final settlements.
One client who used the Debt Action NI service states,
"My husband and I are in our late 60's and in receipt of DLA, Carers Allowance, Housing Benefit and State Retirement Pension. My husband had a severe stroke which left him unable to communicate. He had 1 debt of £6,500 and for 8 months the creditor refused to speak to me about the debt and to accept any payments from me. When I contacted Debt Action NI the adviser liaised with the Lending Standards Board about the matter and my husband's debt was completely written off. We also got an award of £300 in compensation due to the stress that was caused."
The Debt Action NI service is available to anyone from NI. A series of leaflets on how to deal with debt and details of where to get debt advice can be found at www.debtaction-ni.net or by calling Advice NI on 02890645919.